North Allegheny holds line on taxes
The North Allegheny School District is nixing plans to increase its tax rate to help close a multimillion-dollar deficit in the 2014-15 budget.
Of the three proposed final budget options presented to the school board this month, administrators recommended one that would have increased the millage rate by 0.7333 mills to 18.1372 mills to generate an extra $3.8 million in revenue.
Instead, the school board voted, 6-3, last week to approve a proposed final budget of $139.4 million that would maintain the current tax rate, 17.4039 mills. The board cut $3.8 million for facilities projects and $2.7 million for technology projects from the proposed spending plan.
School board members Libby Blackburn, Tara Fisher, Chris Jacobs, Kevin Mahler, Ralph Pagone and Scott Russell voted in favor of the prevailing plan. Joseph Greenberg, Maureen Grosheider and Thomas Schwartzmier voted against it.
In February, North Allegheny said it would ask the state Department of Education for approval to raise its tax rate beyond its 2.1 percent limit to as high as 19.0685 mills to close a projected $7.3 million deficit in the preliminary budget. The state approved a maximum rate of 18.1372 mills in March.
In addition to the spending cuts, the district's financial picture also changed due to changes in revenue and cost projections during the past few months, district spokeswoman Joy Ed said.
In addition to deciding against a tax hike, the school board decided to seek a bond issuance to pay for more than $30 million in renovations needed at Bradford Woods and Marshall elementary schools and Marshall Middle School over several years, said Fisher, the board's vice president.
“It would cover renovations and that is going to free up our budget with respect to capital funding projects that are going toward those buildings over the next few years,” she said.
Planned work at the elementary schools in 2014-15 includes replacing the rubber roofs, drains, fire alarms and public address systems, according to school district facilities reports.
Marshall Middle School needs similar work in 2014-15, as well as replacement of the gym parking lot and stair tower doors and windows, the report said.
The board will vote on a final budget on June 25.
Also, last week, the school board voted 6-3 to approve an elementary class policy that maintains existing class size guidelines — 25 students per kindergarten to second-grade class and 30 students per third- to fifth-grade class.
But the new policy also divides grades into smaller class sizes at the start of the school year, to allow room for new students and reduce unused space later, the district said. Now, kindergarten through second-grades will be divided into classes of no more than 24 students for the year's start, third-grade will start with 27 students in each class and fourth- and fifth-grades will start with 29 students per class.
Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or firstname.lastname@example.org.